Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Atmosphere of calm prevails in disputed territories

Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague.
Photo: PCA
The Red Dragon has stopped spewing fire, and it seems it’s now behaving in a forthright manner after the Permanent Court of Arbitration handed down its final decision on July 12 which favored the legal complaint filed by the Philippines against China on what it perceived as an illegal intrusion on Philippine sovereignty.

As expected, this didn't come as a great surprise to many Filipinos.

Even before the decision was handed down, I could already sense of glitter of hope would come as expected, after the Philippines had filed a complaint before the arbitral tribunal on the manner by which China asserts its rights over the disputed territories in the South China Sea, considering that it was clear from the start that China has violated an important provision set forth by the United Nations on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), in which China is a signatory.

As I was saying before, China may have withdrawn its support of the UNCLOS and may have not affixed its signature at all, knowing that some provisions in the convention would surely affect its historic rights to most parts of the South China Sea.

Experts on international maritime laws said that invoking historic rights to most territories in the South China Sea, as indicated by the nine-dash line, would be difficult to do. They have argued that ancient maps, for example, which could serve as the primary evidence that would identify established boundaries being claimed by China, couldn't be used as proofs to its rightful claims to most parts of the disputed territories in the SCS.

For one, ancient maps cannot serve as a reliable evidence in courts because of their crudeness and some imperfections on how they were made which might create some overlapping of the sovereign boundaries, experts said.

What is clear right now is that, the ruling in The Hague has created a fair atmosphere that a small nation can go against a powerful country like China. At least, it was a moral and legal victory for the Philippines, explains Prof. Richard Heydarian of the De Lasalle University in Manila in a live broadcast interview.

Heydarian said that  the ruling is something that the Philippines can now use to make some concessions in so far as joint undertakings in the disputed territories are concerned.

But Atty. Harry Roque, an international lawyer and now a party-list congressman, explained that if China will not abide by the ruling as mandated by the arbitral tribunal in The Hague, the enforcement issue could be tackled by the Security Council. Otherwise, the U.N. General Assembly will decide as to whether or not U.N.-member nations will be asked to enforce the law.

While it's still premature to predict as to what will happen next, political observers were surprised to find that there's an atmosphere of calm now prevails in the disputed territories.In fact, a local government official in the municipality of Pag-Asa confirmed over a live broadcast that Filipino fishermen can now go about their usual fishing activities without being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guards. However, it wasn't immediately known if the disputed areas will be temporarily open to all fishermen who wish to catch marine resources there.

In the past, the Chinese Coast Guards wouldn't allow Filipino fishermen to catch fish in the disputed territories. Most were driven away by bombarding them with water cannons, which sent them scampering in different directions to flee.

After the ruling was handed down on July 12, China may have gotten the message across so that it is now on the wait-and-see attitude. And there is a strong possibility that bilateral negotiations between the two countries may take place in the soonest possible time.




Saturday, July 2, 2016

Body of beheaded Canadian found in Sulu

File photo shows beheaded Canadian Mr. Robert Hall (left). 
The body of the late Robert Hall, the Canadian national beheaded by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits last June 13, has been dug-up and recovered in Sulu Saturday morning.

Major Filemon Tan, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said Hall's decaying remains were recovered by troops of Joint Task Group (JTG) Sulu around 11:35 a.m. in Upper Kamuntayan, Talipao, Sulu.

"The body is currently being brought by the troops to JTG Sulu Headquarters at Barangay Busbus, Jolo , Sulu for documentation before turn over to the PNP SOCO (scene-of-the-crime operatives)," he added.

Hall was beheaded by the ASG last June 13. His head was later recovered by civilians in front of the gate of the Jolo Cathedral.

Hall, together with John Ridsdel, Kjartan Sikkengstad and Marites Flor, was abducted last Sept. 21 at the Ocean View Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Samal City, Davao Del Norte. Sikkengstad is the only remaining kidnap victim with the ASG as Flor was freed by her kidnappers last week.

The Western Mindanao Command decries the barbaric act of the ASG in beheading its captives which can be described as contrary to the Islamic teachings.

Focused military operations in the area are being undertaken to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf terrorists and possibly rescue the remaining kidnap victims. (P. Nepomuceno, PNA)


Kill the drug lords, not the drug addicts

What a sad news to read that newly elected Philippines' President Rody Duterte was quoted by The Washington Post to have ordered the killing of "drug addicts", a departure from his earlier statements which ordered civilians and the police to only "kill drug lords and pushers" if they resist arrest or they fight back.

President Rody Duterte hands over saber to the newly installed AFP
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya. Outgoing
Chief of Staff Gen. Glorioso Miranda looks on.
Photo: M. Pascua, PCOO, PNA
In fact, President Duterte even urged members of the military to help the law enforcers contain the spread of illegal drugs and arrest those drug dealers who are destroying the future of the young generation and the Philippine society in general. Duterte made this call during a turnover rites at the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

In the Martial Law years, the late President Ferdinand Marcos had approved the deployment of "secret marshals", a bunch of law enforcers who were licensed to kill any criminal caught on the act of perpetrating a crime. When words came out in the media that "secret marshals" in civilian clothes would be riding public transportation such as buses and jeepneys anytime of the day, crimes had considerably dropped to the delight of the commuters.

For me, it was a media stunt to warn criminals in advance not to commit crimes which had victimized ordinary civilians on their way to work or home. And in order to protect the public from unwanted harm from criminals, the idea of sending law enforcers, who were licensed to kill, was hatched. For a while, it was effective as those who wanted to stage a robbery inside public buses plying long distance routes were relieved when the perpetrators were shot and killed while they're committing the crimes.

Distinctively, President Duterte's style of running the government is likened to "authoritarianism."

Wikipedia defines authoritarianism as a style of leadership that is being used when "a leader dictates policies and procedures, decides what goals are to be achieved, and directs and controls all activities without any meaningful participation by the subordinates."

I think his latest order, which may have been taken out of context by the media, could have been to target "drug lords and dealers" instead of the "drug addicts" who can be described as plain users of illegal drugs.

Targetting the drug users is not practical at all. Their dependence on illegal drugs is even more spiked when there's an abundance of supply in the market. Therefore, blame the drug lords who are always on the lookout for people who can be trusted to peddle sachets of "shabu" whose retail price is readily affordable among the addicted populace.

And killing the drug addicts won't resolve the gargantuan problem of drug addiction in a country whose more than 70 percent of its population are impoverished. Perhaps, what the new administration can do is to set up more rehab centers that are fully funded and equipped with modern facilities and equipment in order to sustain the reforms needed to correct their drug addiction.

But the war on drugs must start with the barangay level, in coordination with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Dangerous Drugs Board.

In this concern, barangay officials and the law enforcers must closely coordinate on how to tackle the rising incidence of drug distribution and addiction. In order to cut addiction, the sources of illegal drugs' distribution must be cut. Likewise, close monitoring of drug dependents must also be  put in place after their discharge from the established rehab centers.



Thursday, June 30, 2016

A metamorphosed president


Who would ever think that Philippines' President-elect Rody Duterte would behave in a manner that appeared to be presidential the day he took his oath as the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30 in Malacanang Palace?
Oath-taking of President-elect Rody Duterte
in the presidential palace in Manila on June 30.
Photo: ABS-CBN

With his trademark as a foul-mouthed and fond of incendiary statements that could be misinterpreted as out of civility and at times, demeaning to one's rationality, President Duterte just did what he promised a couple of weeks back that he'd change for the better when he sets foot in the presidential palace.

Wearing a simple long-sleeve barong tagalog, which was made and designed by local designers in Davao City, and a brown corduroy pair of pants that was matched with a ordinary black pair of shoes, Duterte calmly and confidently walked the red carpeted aisles leading to where the outgoing President Benigno Aquino III was waiting for the new leader who's comfortable wearing casual t-shirts and maong pants while serving as a tough mayor of Davao City for more than 22 years.

But just the same, he made it through. But not without the guidance and procedural protocol of a ranking foreign affairs official in the person of Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., former director-general of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, who took patience in leading the new president on what to do and where to go next around the presidential palace prior to his formal oath-taking rites administered by Duterte's fraternal brother in the person of Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes at exactly 12 noon that day in the presence of members of the diplomatic corps.

The oath-taking ceremony was capped by a meaty speech, which lasted for about 15 minutes, sending signals to the audience that the president didn't want to waste his time.

What sets the short speech apart from the other speeches made by previous Philippine presidents was the conveyance of a strong message across on what he wanted to accomplish outright. Hence, he immediately gave orders to his cabinet secretaries and heads of agencies to reduce the redundant requirements in the processing of applications in some government offices as these are giving so much burdens to ordinary citizens. President Duterte also ordered line department heads not to mess around with approved government contracts. "This is wrong," Duterte emphasized strongly in his speech.

He also issued a warning to those who wanted to derail his programs against illegal drugs and criminality. He urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to paddle its own canoe. According to him, they have to mind their own business and "I'll mind mine."

Prior to the handing down of the decision of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague on the disputed territories in the South China Sea, President Duterte said that his administration would respect international treaties and bilateral relationships.

Right after his speech, he proceeded to meet his cabinet members. Unlike the other meetings in the past, President Duterte held the steering wheel across the table by making it clear to his cabinet officials that he'd be using commercial flights and toe the line just like other ordinary passengers. He didn't want to give him special treatment when he and his staff are boarding commercial flights.

On disaster preparedness, as he narrated his bad experiences when Super typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, he ordered concerned cabinet officials to make food, medicines and other equipment closer to disaster-prone areas in the Philippines. In this way, transport of relief goods and other stuffs would reach the typhoon victims much faster.

President Duterte doesn't want a repeat of what happened to the victims of the Super typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas, Philippines. From July to November every year, the Philippines is hit by at least 18 to 20 typhoons.











Friday, June 24, 2016

Bond yields in East Asia continue to slow down

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Bond yields in most emerging East Asian markets continued to track lower from 1 March to 15 May 2016 as investors factored in forecasts of continued slow growth for the global economy, Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) latest Asia Bond Monitor said.

At the same time, the US Federal Reserve’s cautious approach to keep interest rates steady in its first three meetings in 2016 led to positive inflows in a number of emerging East Asian local currency government bond markets between January and April. Domestic equity markets and emerging East Asian currencies were mostly stronger over the review period, while credit default swap spreads fell, reflecting reduced perceptions of default risk in the region.

“The outlook for emerging East Asian bonds remains mostly benign given still strong fundamentals and interest in the region, however, there are downside risks, including the possibility that quicker than expected US Federal Reserve interest rate hikes trigger a foreign investor pullback from the region,” said Shang-Jin Wei, ADB’s Chief Economist. “At the same time policies to improve the efficiency and transparency of financial markets can help economies in the region remain flexible in the face of external shocks.”

The report notes that further stagnation in the global economy and worries about financial instability, along with emerging deflation in emerging East Asia, are other risks.

Most local currency government bond yields, including for 10-year government paper, fell. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Philippines were exceptions, with yields mostly up.

Local currency bond markets in emerging East Asia continued to grow, rising to over $9.6 trillion at end-March, marking a nearly 4% rise from end-December, and a more than 20% climb over the same period the year earlier. Local currency bond issuance of over $1 trillion in the first quarter was down over 2% from the previous quarter, but was still up 51% from the year earlier period.

The PRC’s bond market remained emerging East Asia’s largest, accounting for nearly 68% of total bond stock as of end-March 2016. Local currency government bonds continued to dominate, accounting for nearly 62% of total holdings at end-March with corporate bonds less attractive due to their more illiquid nature.

Between 1 March and 15 May, equities rose in all emerging East Asian markets, except for modest declines in Indonesia and Malaysia, while currencies were broadly stronger against the US dollar, with the Republic of Korea won appreciating the most (up 5% during the review period), followed by the Malaysian ringgit, which gained over 3%.

The report’s theme chapter examines the macroeconomic factors affecting sovereign bond yields in emerging Asia, highlighting the role of inflation and the different yield impacts of consumer price index (CPI) and producer price index (PPI) inflation, the importance of domestic liquidity, and the influence of the global economic environment on bond yields.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion. (ADB)

Breaking the presidential curse in the Philippines


President-elect Atty. Rodrigo Duterte.
Courtesy: Ryan Lim, Malacanang Photo Bureau
On June 30, 2016, incoming President Rodrigo "Duterte Harry" Duterte will be sworn in as the  16th president of the Republic of the Philippines, replacing former President Benigno Aquino III, who will step down after serving for six years of his term; leaving a legacy of reviving the country's anemic economic growth into what's considered by economic pundits as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, if not the world.

Latest data showed the Philippines have notched a 6.9% in GDP, against China's only 6.7% last year. And many foreign investors have set their eyes on pouring in their investments into the country, even as the newly-elected President Duterte's  announcement recently that he wouldn't allow factories to be set up in the National Capital Region, otherwise known as Metro Manila, anymore.

Understandably, the newly-elected leader has expressed concern that Metro Manila is bursting at the seams. With more than 13 million residents, illegal squatting in Metro Manila has become a big headache for the government for many decades now. And perhaps, the only way to decongest the urban areas is to decentralize the industries. In fact, United Nations data indicated that the Philippines has more than 70 percent of population living below the poverty line with many of them living in high risk areas along the river estuaries.

These are the same group of people who were tired of the politicians' false promises to uplift them from the quagmire of poverty. Hence, when the best opportunity comes knocking at Duterte's doors, he didn't lose any time to give it a deep ponder, if only to help alleviate the lives of the socially impoverished majority.

As Prof. Prospero de Vera, a political analyst from the University of the Philippines, was quoted by a newswires agency  as saying that Duterte's victory was "phenomenal rise to the presidency which upends traditional wisdom that only candidates from Luzon or the Visayas can win the presidency." In short, Duterte's victory was breaking the spell of the "Mindanao curse", which for many years have only elected presidents from Luzon and the Visayas.

De Vera pointed out that Duterte's phenomenal victory was the consequence of many Filipinos' frustrations over the administration's failure to deliver what majority of the destitute Filipinos had expected. He is convinced that "something dramatic must happen in Mindanao", considering that he is the first leader from Mindanao who was elected into the highest office.

On the contrary, Prof. Edmund Tayao, also a political analyst, believed that Duterte's victory couldn't be compared to the same base of supporters when President Benigno Aquino III won the presidency in 2010, saying that Aquino won by plurality in that election year, too.

Political observers believed that it wasn't an easy decision for Duterte who was adopted by the PDP-Laban party prior to joining the presidential contest. In fact, it took a last-ditch attempt for his supporters to nudge him into considering running for president in a country that is rocked by rampant graft and corruption, trading of illegal drugs, and other crimes.

While the other presidential timbers have already started their campaign sorties, strategizing on what's best to attract huge followers without really shedding so much money to earn their trust comes election day, incoming President Rodrigo "Duterte Harry" Duterte, 71, has yet to make up his mind as to whether to catch up with the rest of the pack or not.

And who would think that an erstwhile prosecutor who became a tough mayor of Davao City, the largest city in the world in terms of land area,  for 22 years before he finally decided to battle it out with the bigwigs in politics. Notorious for his firebrand attitude and belting out of incendiary foul language during the campaign sorties, Duterte has earned the respect of a wide margin of support from the masses who were tired of the government's elitist approach to solving social problems in the country of 103 million people.

As Mr. Perry Diaz, a columnist from Pinas tabloid based in Los Angeles, Duterte, who has zero tolerance against criminals, is a combination of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Lee Kuan Yew, Ramon Magsaysay, and "Dirty Harry", all wrapped into one.

But farfetched from the minds of those who thought that he'd be vindictive, Duterte immediately thought to clear the path to reconciliation to the losing parties for the sake of national healing and to foster unity among the people.

Even prior to his oath-taking rites, President Duterte has already presented his administration's eight-point economic agenda which include tax reforms, accelerating infrastructure spending, attracting foreign investments, agricultural development, creating more jobs, and expanding the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and maintain the current macroeconomic policies, the Philippines News Agency (PNA) said.

PNA added that the new administration is set to introduce changes in tax revenue collection efforts of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC). Likewise, infrastructure-spending will be accelerated in order to address major bottlenecks in the Public Private Partnership (PPP), wherein 5 percent of the GDP will be allocated for this program as a means to create more jobs. The incoming administration will also attract foreign investments by addressing restrictive economic provisions in the country's Constitution.

On top of these, the incoming leadership has a blueprint of platforms on how he will fulfill his plans within six months of his presidency. Duterte's spokesman Mr. Peter Lavina said the incoming administration will pursue a 24/7 fight on criminality, illegal drugs, and corruption in government. Duterte also called on Congress to enact a law that will clear the pathways to amending the 1987 Constitution, which will take a shift from presidential to federal parliamentary form, and allow foreigners to own lands, utilities, educational institutions, and the explorations of natural resources in the country.

Breaking the presidential curse in the Philippines


On June 30, 2016, incoming President Rodrigo "Duterte Harry" Duterte will be sworn in as the  16th president of the Republic of the Philippines, replacing former President Benigno Aquino III, who will step down after serving for six years of his term; leaving a legacy of reviving the country's anemic economic growth into what's considered by economic pundits as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, if not the world.

Latest data showed the Philippines have notched a 6.9% in GDP, against China's only 6.7% last year. And many foreign investors have set their eyes on pouring in their investments into the country, even as the newly-elected President Duterte's  announcement recently that he wouldn't allow factories to be set up in the National Capital Region, otherwise known as Metro Manila, anymore.

Understandably, the newly-elected leader has expressed concern that Metro Manila is bursting at the seams. With more than 13 million residents, illegal squatting in Metro Manila has become a big headache for the government for many decades now. And perhaps, the only way to decongest the urban areas is to decentralize the industries. In fact, United Nations data indicated that the Philippines has more than 70 percent of population living below the poverty line with many of them living in high risk areas along the river estuaries.

These are the same group of people who were tired of the politicians' false promises to uplift them from the quagmire of poverty. Hence, when the best opportunity comes knocking at Duterte's doors, he didn't lose any time to give it a deep ponder, if only to help alleviate the lives of the socially impoverished majority.

As Prof. Prospero de Vera, a political analyst from the University of the Philippines, was quoted by a newswires agency  as saying that Duterte's victory was "phenomenal rise to the presidency which upends traditional wisdom that only candidates from Luzon or the Visayas can win the presidency." In short, Duterte's victory was breaking the spell of the "Mindanao curse", which for many years have only elected presidents from Luzon and the Visayas.

De Vera pointed out that Duterte's phenomenal victory was the consequence of many Filipinos' frustrations over the administration's failure to deliver what majority of the destitute Filipinos had expected. He is convinced that "something dramatic must happen in Mindanao", considering that he is the first leader from Mindanao who was elected into the highest office.

On the contrary, Prof. Edmund Tayao, also a political analyst, believed that Duterte's victory couldn't be compared to the same base of supporters when President Benigno Aquino III won the presidency in 2010, saying that Aquino won by plurality in that election year, too.

Political observers believed that it wasn't an easy decision for Duterte who was adopted by the PDP-Laban party prior to joining the presidential contest. In fact, it took a last-ditch attempt for his supporters to nudge him into considering running for president in a country that is rocked by rampant graft and corruption, trading of illegal drugs, and other crimes.

While the other presidential timbers have already started their campaign sorties, strategizing on what's best to attract huge followers without really shedding so much money to earn their trust comes election day, incoming President Rodrigo "Duterte Harry" Duterte, 71, has yet to make up his mind as to whether to catch up with the rest of the pack or not.

And who would think that an erstwhile prosecutor who became a tough mayor of Davao City, the largest city in the world in terms of land area,  for 22 years before he finally decided to battle it out with the bigwigs in politics. Notorious for his firebrand attitude and belting out of incendiary foul language during the campaign sorties, Duterte has earned the respect of a wide margin of support from the masses who were tired of the government's elitist approach to solving social problems in the country of 103 million people.

As Mr. Perry Diaz, a columnist from Pinas tabloid based in Los Angeles, Duterte, who has zero tolerance against criminals, is a combination of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Lee Kuan Yew, Ramon Magsaysay, and "Dirty Harry", all wrapped into one.

But farfetched from the minds of those who thought that he'd be vindictive, Duterte immediately thought to clear the path to reconciliation to the losing parties for the sake of national healing and to foster unity among the people.

Even prior to his oath-taking rites, President Duterte has already presented his administration's eight-point economic agenda which include tax reforms, accelerating infrastructure spending, attracting foreign investments, agricultural development, creating more jobs, and expanding the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and maintain the current macroeconomic policies, the Philippines News Agency (PNA) said.

PNA added that the new administration is set to introduce changes in tax revenue collection efforts of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC). Likewise, infrastructure-spending will be accelerated in order to address major bottlenecks in the Public Private Partnership (PPP), wherein 5 percent of the GDP will be allocated for this program as a means to create more jobs. The incoming administration will also attract foreign investments by addressing restrictive economic provisions in the country's Constitution.

On top of these, the incoming leadership has a blueprint of platforms on how he will fulfill his plans within six months of his presidency. Duterte's spokesman Mr. Peter Lavina said the incoming administration will pursue a 24/7 fight on criminality, illegal drugs, and corruption in government. Duterte also called on Congress to enact a law that will clear the pathways to amending the 1987 Constitution, which will take a shift from presidential to federal parliamentary form, and allow foreigners to own lands, utilities, educational institutions, and the explorations of natural resources in the country.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Will ethanol supply glut drains OPEC revenues?

What will OPEC do if it runs out of revenues from the huge sales of petroleum products in the open markets?

OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria
If this happens, the likely scenario is that OPEC, which is the second biggest supplier of petroleum products to the United States, will feel the harsh impacts of declining revenues from oil exports.

Alone, the United States imports about 3.24 million barrels of oil per day from OPEC, which accounts to 35 percent of the total gross imports in 2014, reveals by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EIA adds that this volume is slight lower than what the United States buys from Canada, which is estimated at 3.39 million barrels of oil per day, or 37 percent of the gross total imports.

However, this scenario is slowly changing after the United States Congress enacted the 2007 Energy Independence and SecurityAct, which was intended to reduce the U.S. energy dependence from the Middle East after 9/11, says Bloomberg Businessweek.

As a result, the rapid fracking of oil from the shales has gained momentum thus allowing the United States to produce more oil that it needs to satisfy the rising demands of millions of consumers. This is not to mention the program that would allow the blending of a certain amount of ethanol into the fossil fuel to make the pump prices much cheaper and good for the environment as well.

But here is the twist to this development. On November 30, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated domestic oil refiners to blend only 18.1 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation's gasoline supply next year, adds Bloomberg Businessweek. But this figure was short by 4.1 billion gallons that was required under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

This also means that less ethanol on the gasoline will be advantageous to the economic interests of OPEC and other petroleum exporters to the U.S. Now, OPEC has the option to sell more oil at a price it wants to mark up.

Strange but true,  the American taxpayers had pumped tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks into ethanol development since the 1980s. According to Businessweek, about 40 percent of U.S. corn goes into biofuels, which Americans paid an estimated $40 billion a year more at the grocery store.

As this developed, nobody knows if the U.S. Department of Energy, environmentalists and other consumer groups, are propping up the interests of big oil exporters to the detriment of public good?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saltwater-fed lamp: Will its inventor stick to her gun?

Engr. Aisa Mijeno meets with President Obama and Jack Ma of  Alibaba.com.
at the APEC CEO Summit in Manila. Photo: philnews.ph
Engr. Aisa Mijeno didn't have time to figure it out until she paid a visit to a remote village in Mt. Province in the Philippines.

At the touch of dusk, she had noticed that all the homes in that upland community were engulfed in total darkness. Then, she promised to herself that she would invent a lamp that wouldn't use kerosene, a common fuel for unsafe traditional lamps in the hinterland areas in the country. But kerosene lamps can burn down houses made of light and native materials that are readily available in the uplands.

When she went back home, Mijeno tried to polish her new invention. Voila, she made it. She thought her problem would end there. Instead, she was faced with the lack  of money to finance her new project, which is to mass-produce the saltwater-fed lamp intended for the homes in upland communities in the Philippines.

It took Mijeno a long while before she finally had a chance to meet one of the most powerful political figures the world over. But her luck wouldn't have been realized had  it not been for her persistence and determination to attend the APEC Summit in Manila held last November 2015 at the Philippine International Convention Center  (PICC). As she narrated to media, the security cordon almost made it impossible for her to get through the gates as she wasn't accredited by the APEC organizer. To  make the story short, President Obama's secret service agents fetched her at the gate and brought her to meet President Obama in person.

Such was the culmination of an exchange of camaraderie among President Obama, Jack Ma of  Alibaba.com and Engr. Aisa Mijeno at the stage for the world to see  and hear what she went through before she finally got that rare opportunity to meet the U.S. president. If I wasn't mistaken, Mijeno was invited by President Obama to visit Washington, D.C. And as media reports said even Mr. Jack Ma has expressed optimism to support the mass-production of the saltwater-fed lamp. In this way, the world's hinterland populations, especially those who are not connected to the power grids, may have the chance to be lit up at a cost they can afford to defray.

The Philippines comprises of more than 7,000 islands where lighting up all the homes would be next to impossible. Homes in coastal villages are accessible and can  easily be interconnected to the power grids. This is where the disparity in power distribution begins. But what about those homes located in the hinterlands, where infrastructures are absent? This is where this type of lamp  comes in. And to think that the Philippines is surrounded by the oceans is something that makes it more economical for poor households to readily avail of a cheap  power sources.

Now, the big question is: Will the inventor of this saltwater-fed lamp be strong enough to resist the tempting offers from foreign companies to buy her patent? The reason why I'm asking this question because there were Filipino inventions in the past which landed in the hands of foreign financiers, without the Filipinos or their intended  captive markets where they're supposed to improve the lives of the poor majority. There was a Filipino who invented a special gadget that could run vehicles using  water, instead of gas. Another Filipino invented the fluorescent bulb, but who is raking the huge profits?

Again, the Philippine government is to blame if this happens once more. From what I read, Mijeno failed to get support from the Philippine government even  after she came out with her invention. I wouldn't be surprised at all why Filipino inventors have been left alone for a long period of time. The Department of Science and  Technology (DOST) must spearhead a program that would lend support to our inventors. Otherwise, they'll have no option but to sell their inventions to foreigners who are expected to mass-produce them for huge profits.

Patent for the saltwater-generated lamp, which was invented by Filipino Engr. Aisa Mijeno, could be bought by a rich foreign financier. Then, it could be shelved for selfish reasons.  Possible buyers of this special lamp are oil producing countries and perhaps, companies that produce fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. Why?
If this newly invented lamp, which can also be used to recharge cellphones,  is mass-produced, using multi-million funds sourced out from from foreign financiers, there is likelihood that it could be vulnerable to tempting offers from people or companies whose intentions are either for profit or for something else. Nobody knows.

The concern of many Filipinos right now is whether the lamp's inventor is determined enough to stick to her gun or not? But sometimes, the color of money fools the eyes! Isn't it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Islamic terrorists take advantage of refugees' mass exodus to Europe

A CCTV catches footage of a killing in Paris.
The discovery by French police of a foreign passport reportedly belonging to a Syrian reinforces notions that the suspects in Friday's killing of at least 120 people, including a CSU student, may have planned it prior to the mass exodus of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Libya.

What's my perception on this prior to the killing spree that took place the second time around in France is that the killings were properly planned. After the botched attempt by a lone gunman using an AK47 rifle aboard a train, which led to the suspect being toppled down by three American servicemen, the killing in Paris graced newspaper headlines, thus shocking the international communities.

According to an Los Angeles Times report (Nov. 15): "The document raised the possibility that Islamic State militants have made good on their threat to enter and attack Europe from within the wave of Syrian refugees."

If they (suspects) indeed had infiltrated and disguised themselves as refugees is something that other legit refugees may have missed to notice. Capitalizing on the movement of people has been a desperate strategy for Islamic militants to get perhaps get even with the recent killing of their comrades. To them, shooting innocent Europeans in a soccer game was a valid disregard for human lives.

Now, the problem lies with host countries in Europe to re-think of effective ways to screen or spot suspected Islamic militants from within the thousands of refugees who are swarming Europe like locusts.
But how? Screening each adult refugee prior to entry will be hard considering that most, if not all, the refugees have no passports to show at the border. If they have, the border guards have no way of knowing the details which could take up so much time to gather all the information on a single passport holder. Even if the idea of proper monitoring is employed by the authorities, it will be a tedious and time-consuming act knowing that transplanted refugees cannot be herded like goats into a fenced property.

On the contrary, putting each adult refugee a tracking device is possible but it will entail so much expenses for the host country. Or requiring them to report to the nearest police station on regular basis will be practical, too. But this won't be much of a help as this will be an added burden to the police duties.

Going back to where I left off, the matter of security at the soccer stadium was lax. In the first place, each soccer game patron enters the ticketing booth to buy or handover his ticket prior to entry. If they were suspected of bringing rifles in a bag or whatever, it could have been detected by the security or tellers manning the gates. Otherwise, the suspects may have bribed an insider to sneak the said rifles inside the stadium's premises? Upon entry, the suspects went to pick those rifles at an undisclosed location inside the stadium.

I was surprised that nobody had noticed the suspect coming out from the dungouts with rifles in hand? Unless they disguised themselves as stadium security guards or policemen, the soccer fans wouldn't have noticed their sinister moves inside. With thousands of people watching the game, nobody stood up to topple them down. Then, the carnage was done in about 15 minutes with 120 fatalities laying lifeless on the ground.